As the Sub-prefecture of Guadeloupe, Pointe à Pitre is also the economical capital. Its center offers the effervescent charm of a big colourful Carribean city. Its industrial zone is the economic lung of the island. Its marina and its quarter in Bas du fort welcomes the yachters and the tourists as well as the nightbirds seeking entertainment as soon as night falls.
One of the main theories regarding the etymology of the town states that its name comes from Peter, a Dutch fisherman who sold the fruit of his fishing at this point at the end of vieux fort Louis. Through distorsion the point became Pointe à Pitre. But the place is not very favourable for fishing because of the surrounding swamps. The protected anchoring at Petit Cul de Sac seduced the English who founded the first city on the hill and began to improve the living conditions along the coast. After the island was returned to the French following the Paris Treaty (1763), the city took the name of the nearby point so popular with fishermen.
Because of its central position on the island, of its port which was safer than the port of Basse Terre and because of the proximity of the abundant sugar resources in Grande Terre, the town developped rapidly. It was destryed the first time in 1843 by an earthquake, then by other seisms and frequent fires, with the worst in 1928 when a cyclone devasted the town. Despite these tragedies, « la Pointe » as the guadeloupeans call it, carried on growing. Many council houses were built. Since then, big structures and old popular areas like the careening area were the subject of a gradual reduction of unfit inhabitation.
In 1970, the airport of Raizet (commune of Abymes) received its first big shareholders. A new aeroport replaced it in 2000.
Away from the city, the Pointe Jarry (commune of Baie-Mahault) accomodates a vast industrial zone which is the veritable industrial and commercial lung of the island and whose merchandise port is the other end og the ombilical cord which links metropolitan France to Guadeloupe.
The pointoise city is an important center and in the daytime is used to a lot of activity and enormous congestion. It is best to visit in the morning and to escape to the beaches before the lunchtime heat hits you.
Only few houses remain from old times. If you look up, you may discover in one street or another, balconies in wrought iron whihc are rare testimonials of colonial style. Besides the presbytery in the progess of being restored, two old colonial houses contain two modest museums. These are the Schlcher museum which relates the past of the abolitionist fighter and the museum of Saint John Perse, in honour of the poet and diplomat from Pointe à Pitre. The building was designed by Gustave Eiffel and was originally designed for rich bourgeois from New Orleans. The place de la victoire in the center of town was the stage for the bloody battle where in 1794 Victor Hugues cleared out the English. Royal palm trees, mango trees and other big trees are planted there and it is a popular place for outings for the pointois. Opposite the Palais de justice, the Basilic Saint Pierre-Saint Paul stands with its façade of Latino-american influence. Rebuilt upon the ruins of the old building which fell down in 1843, its metallic structure met the antisismic standards of the times. Nearby is where the flower market takes place. Porcelain roses, alpinias, anthuriums, oiseaux de paradis, the most beautiful flowers on the island rivalise with their colours. This is one of the three markets of the town. Another one takes place at the gats of Darse, and the third, under the metallic frames of the halle Saint Antoine. For the ambience, the enjoyemnt of the eyes before these colourful stalls, the variety of aromas and flavours, an outing at the amrket is an essential stage and almost an initiation. On the stalls of merchants wearing traditional costumes, in an explosion of colours, a vast choice of fruit and vegetables is offered with more than seventy five different varieties. Next to the fruit and vegetables the doudous initiate the curious to the unbelievable smells and tastes of spices. Although the doudous are particularly welcoming and say « chéri » and « doudou » to all people passing by, you should always ask permission before taking photos or filming.
Frébault street is the commercial artery of the town and accomodates many jewellers', Madras shops, street merchants, cobblers, watch sellers, bracelet sellers and sunglasses sellers. An incredible effervescence rules in the city, even more surprising when activities stop, the streets empty and the atmosphere gets almost worrying.
Away from the town, on the road to Gosier, at the foot of the university, the marina of Pointe à Pitre is a popular place. Besides the many boats that are moored, it acomodates many restaurants, bars and clubs. It is not surprising that the place should be animated both at night and at the weekend.
Further on, still on the Gosier road, the area of Bas du Fort gets its name from the Fort Fleur dEpée which overlooks it from the heights of the hillside. Recently restored and well kept, the place is appreciated by visitors. Bas du Fort is an important touristic center. Several hotels set around the beautiful artificial beaches of white sand stretch up to the point of this peninsula. The restaurants, bars and clubs dotted along the roadside make Bas du Fort and animated and lively area.